By Anush Dashtents
The controversial Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission will hold its next meeting in Istanbul in the last week of September, it emerged on Wednesday. One of the four Armenian members of the private body, former foreign minister Alexander Arzumanian, told RFE/RL that he will fly to the Turkish city on September 23 to attend the session.
Arzumanian refused to give any details of the meeting, including its length and agenda. He said he and the three other commission members, accused by their opponents of undermining the campaign for international recognition of the 1915 genocide, have agreed not to comment publicly on the commission’s work.
The commission comprising senior retired diplomats from Armenia and Turkey as well as members of the Armenian Diaspora was officially unveiled in Geneva on July 9 after months of confidential negotiations. It said it will strive “to promote mutual understanding and good will between Turks and Armenians and to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey.”
The mostly Armenian opponents of the initiative claim that it is part of Ankara’s efforts to avert more resolutions by Western legislatures recognizing the death of some 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide. But the Armenian commission members and their supporters believe that it may lay the groundwork for a change in Turkey’s policy of genocide denial.
The commission on Tuesday received the indirect support of the United States. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones told reporters in Yerevan that Washington welcomes any initiative aimed at a normalization of ties between Armenia and Turkey. But she denied any US government involvement in the “private” dialogue.
Some Western media reports have said the US State Department actively encouraged the secret negotiations that preceded the commission’s creation.